Roof raised at American Family Insurance Amphitheater

Major design milestone reached in phase one of $50 million redevelopment project

A portion of the roof was raised by 26 feet. (Photo: Summerfest)

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:10 pm

A portion of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater roof has been raised to nearly twice its original height, increasing the production capabilities at the main Henry Maier Festival Park concert venue.

Milwaukee World Festival Inc. officials celebrated on Tuesday the completion of a major design milestone of the first phase of the $50 million amphitheater redevelopment project. About half of the current roof was raised to 65 feet, up from 39 feet. Don Smiley, president and chief executive officer of Milwaukee World Festival Inc., said the project will allow the venue to host larger and more complex tours.

“There is no limit to as to what we can do now with the roof being 69 feet, given the amount of equipment that these bands tour with these days,” Smiley said.

For example, he noted, when The Rolling Stones headlined the amphitheater in 2015, the venue wasn’t able to accommodate the band’s full production. In the future that would not be an issue with the higher roof at the amphitheater, he said.

“Anything that fits in a stadium or arena will now be able to fit in the American Family Insurance Amphitheater,” Smiley said.

The raised portion of the roof encompasses about 24,100 square feet and weighs 607,000 pounds. The lift required eight different lifting motors, which pulled cables inch by inch, from each of the eight points simultaneously, until the lift was completed.

The project is led by Brookfield-based construction manager Hunzinger Construction. Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects is the lead architectural firm designing the new amphitheater. Houston-based ALE HeavyLift completed the lift.

“We are so proud to be leading the construction team of the American Family Insurance Amphitheater renovation because back in 1987, Hunzinger built this venue,” said Joel Becker, vice president of field operations for Hunzinger. “I ran the construction crews that built the amphitheater 32 years ago and I am here again supervising this amazing upgrade.”

The project’s first phase, which also includes rebuilding the backstage area to include new artist amenities, production offices and dressing rooms, is on schedule to be completed for this year’s festival.

Construction on the second phase will begin immediately after Summerfest 2019. That project will include building new concourses and seats, additional hospitality areas, a new seating bowl and more food and beverage operations. Summerfest 2020 will mark the grand opening of the new amphitheater.

Smiley noted that concert-goers will not see the cost of the project impacting ticket prices.

Headliners announced so far who will play the amphitheater at Summerfest 2019 include:

  • Thomas Rhett with Dustin Lynch and Russell Dickerson on June 26.
  • Jason Aldean and Kane Brown on June 28.
  • Bon Iver with Lord Huron and Julien Baker on June 29.
  • Zac Brown Band on June 30.
  • Ozzy Osbourne on July 4.

Watch a video of the amphitheater roof being raised here:

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Lauren Anderson
Lauren Anderson covers health care, nonprofits, education and insurance for BizTimes. Lauren previously reported on education for the Waukesha Freeman. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she studied journalism, history and African studies. In her free time, Lauren enjoys spending time with family and friends and seeing live music wherever she can.